In October of 2015, CBS launched “Supergirl” for a 13-episode order. I even published an article about it. Maybe it was a bid by the network to lure in younger viewers or maybe an appeal to older ones, but one thing was certain: this Supergirl was going to be a force for hope, good, and all that stuff. In a television and movie landscape now dominated by dark and sometimes murdering superheroes, this one was going to remain incorruptible in spite of many temptations.
You know — the way Superman used to be.
Actor Christopher Reeve was quoted with saying, “Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” It isn’t clear if he was saying that in-character or not, but it was probably both.
Happy so far, CBS bumped the show to a full-series order: a total of 20 episodes. The show hasn’t been perfect; from a front-loaded overstuffed pilot to a world where science seems to serve the weekly plot and physics be damned, the one consistency has been Melissa Benoist. The “Glee” actress has so completely embodied the character of Supergirl and brought so much of her A-game, you’d think she was going for an Oscar in a feature film if she didn’t look so honest doing it. Considering that two other actresses on the show — Helen Slater and Laura Vandervoort — have both played the character, it’s hard now to imagine anyone better for the role than Melissa Benoist (yeah, she’s that good).
As cheesy and silly as some of the effects and plot points can be, Ms. Benoist BECOMES Supergirl in those moments: an orphaned alien determined to make a difference, willing to put her life on the line to give everyone a chance at redemption even when all she’d rather do is punch something really hard. Kudos to the writers and showrunners for knowing what they have and everyone who’s championed hope as the theme of the show. In spite of the ridiculous premise of having Supergirl’s secret identity Kara Danvers work for mega-mogul Cat Grant, Calista Flockhart — the show’s real secret weapon — steals scene after scene and serves as both Kara and Supergirl’s mentor for what a powerful woman can be…even while teaching Cat that hope can provide far more opportunity than making people fear you.
While the concept seems naive, this is “Supergirl Begins,” and she makes mistakes — a LOT of mistakes. Cat Grant gets all the best lines speaking for the cynics in the audience preferring to laugh at such a silly superhero, right up until it isn’t funny anymore. While hope is a big thing on the show, heart is even more so, and Supergirl as a symbol is more important than both her screw-ups and successes. With the most recent episode and a decision on what percentage of 4 million people is considered acceptable collateral damage, even Supergirl’s series arch nemesis Maxwell Lord (Peter Facinelli) looks the hero in the eye and says “I’m listening”…and you believe it.
As of this writing, no one know’s the true fate of “Supergirl.” No, not if our hero will survive the season finale next Monday but whether or not CBS will pull the plug and make this the SERIES finale. Here’s the thing: in a cinematic and television landscape of dark knights, punishers, getting away with murder, and bat-beaten zombie apocalypse survivors, a little light is necessary to appreciate the darkness.
Don’t take away our symbol of hope.
Don’t kill off “Supergirl,” CBS.
2 thoughts on “Supergirl Revisited: Darkness and Light in Storytelling”
As a person who watches a total of 3-4 hours of TV a week, this is one show I’ve enjoyed for the sheer “no brainer” aspect of it. Benoist is superb in the role. I’m also intrigued by the realization that I like the casting choice of Jimmy Olsen in this rendition. And Flockhart is definitely the type of boss you love to love and hate at the same time. I hope this gets picked up for a second season, but if it doesn’t, I would like a solid finale without the cliffhanger that too many networks are leaving with our shows. As an additional touch, could we finally meet Superman, too?
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I consume and produce a lot of dark media, but you need contrast. If everyone is beautiful, no one is beautiful. If everyone is evil, no one is evil. Blue Bonnets blooming in a field of green is exceptional, but would have you noticed all the greenery if not for the pops of blue?
I would dearly love to see the show get more intelligent with its science. There was hope on the seasons’s penultimate episode where the characters casually bantered over an old analog broadcast studio, providing a bit of explanation as to the idea of what they were going to do. Another nice fact was while Supergirl may be able to move at super-speed saving people, she’s only got two arms, folks. Science FTW!
But as my wife keeps pointing out: why do all the lady villains seem to be wearing horrible wigs?
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